Attractions have plans in place to manage National Day weekend crowds

The crowd at a previous National Day Open House at the National Museum of Singapore. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE
The crowd at a previous National Day Open House at the National Museum of Singapore. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE

With free entry to some attractions tomorrow, they will be jam-packed. Five places share the measures they will take

When Ms Rawdah Juma'at visited the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa during Chinese New Year this year, she felt she was about to faint.

"People were eating and drinking at any available open space. It was super crowded, so I had to sit in a corner and be fanned for a while," says the 29-year-old civil servant.

Singaporeans, often with their children in tow, love visiting attractions such as the S.E.A. Aquarium on public holidays.

Singaporeans and permanent residents enjoy free admission to seven museums all-year round.

But on certain public holidays, these attractions, such as the museums run by the National Heritage Board, offer special programmes or even free admission to ticketed events and exhibitions. Take, for instance, National Day tomorrow. Places such as the National Museum of Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum and ArtScience Museum are offering free entry to all their galleries to mark the nation's birthday.

Such gestures give families greater incentive to visit. Add the tourist crowd to the mix and you can see why some folks such as Ms Rawdah would get a headache.

But all the five major attractions Life!Weekend spoke to say they have crowd control measures in place.

National Heritage Board museums take into consideration human traffic flow when planning exhibitions, identifying and removing potential bottleneck areas.

During museum open houses and days when free admission is offered for their blockbuster exhibitions, the museums try not to have visitors concentrated within the galleries.

"We maximise the use of our museum grounds by extending our programmes beyond the building to ensure a good spread of activity," says a spokesman.

An example would be the recent Asian Civilisations Museum's After Dark event, which saw a sizeable crowd spill onto the lawn outside the museum to catch live performances.

Limiting the number of visitors in one space is another strategy. At the Singapore Art Museum's recently concluded Unearthed exhibition, gallery sitters kept a close eye on the capacity of its chapel, which housed Ho Tzu Nyen's The Cloud Of Unknowing installation, ensuring that it never got too crowded.

Over at Gardens by the Bay, certain activities, such as the audio tour of its outdoor attractions, are not available during busy days.

On National Day, its regular practice is to close the OCBC Skyway at the Supertree Grove at 6pm instead of the usual 9pm. This is to discourage crowds from gathering at the narrow aerial walkway to catch the fireworks display.

Its chief operation officer, Mr Felix Loh, says: "A better spot to view the fireworks from Gardens by the Bay would be the Silver Garden (adjacent to the Flower Dome) and Bay East (on the opposite bank of Marina Reservoir)."

At S.E.A. Aquarium, which can attract up to 10,000 people on a public holiday, ensuring their visitors have a pleasant experience is an ongoing process. When it first opened in 2012, people were unhappy about the snaking queues.

However, after taking into account public feedback, the Aquarium removed the bridges outside to enhance the visitor flow, which now allows the visitors to enter within minutes upon arrival. The basement of Maritime Experiential Museum has also been activated as an indoor queue area.

Sometimes, it is the experience of leaving the venue that can mar the visit, with the sheer number of visitors thwarting even the best-laid plans.

The Sports Hub had a thorough plan in place to clear the crowd after its first concert at the new National Stadium, attended by 30,000 people, which included a queue management plan at Stadium MRT station. But there were still reports of people being caught in human traffic jams at the station.

One method adopted by the Sports Hub, as well as the other venues, is deploying more staff including security officers, customer safety officers and ushers to ensure visitor safety. At the museums, more gallery sitters are often deployed during peak periods.

Those who are still willing to brave the crowds during the National Day weekend can take steps to make their visits more pleasant.

Visitors to the Sports Hub are encouraged to check out its website (www.sportshub.com.sg) to plan their trip based on the programmes offered. For example, those who would like to catch the live telecast of the National Day parade are encouraged to take along picnic mats as the 200 chairs provided are prioritised for the elderly and the young.

Those heading to the ArtScience Museum this weekend are advised not to drive, due to the partial road closures around the vicinity. Pre-registration for programmes five minutes prior to the start time is also encouraged.

Manager Stella Clare Wee, 41, often takes her three children aged between one and five, to Gardens by the Bay on Sunday afternoons when it is not so crowded. She also buys a family pass so she can skip the queues.

It looks like when it comes to visiting these venues on a crowded weekend or public holiday, managing your own expectations is key.

nabilahs@sph.com.sg